Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery In London
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Understanding Skin Cancer

Structure of skin

Our Skin’s Formation

The hair growing through a section of skin in the image above gives an idea of scale. Elements within our skin are tiny parts of a complex organ.

An organ which provides protection, temperature regulation and sensory perception. Self renewal and flexibility are equally essential aspects.

Our skin has evolved to suit us, from the same building blocks which create scales, feathers, or hooves in other species. In our case, formed into three different layers, the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.

The hypodermis is an extra layer beneath our core skin, attached to the dermis by collagen and elastin fibres. This mainly consists of adipocytes, fat gathering cells which store energy and help with heat regulation.

Thinking of human skin as consisting of the epidermis and dermis is quite normal and these are the areas most likely to be at risk of skin cancer.

Unwanted Change

Our skin brings benefits, dispelling waste products through sweat and turning sunlight into vitamin D. The downside is that too much exposure to the sun can have a negative effect, making internal cells cancerous.

As the nearest to the sun’s rays, our epidermis is most at risk. This mainly consists of cells called keratinocytes, including a lower layer known as basal cells.

They help to produce normal skin and DNA mutations within them produce the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.

Other keratinocytes called squamous cells, there to strengthen the skin, can also be a point of weakness. The next most common type of skin cancer, squamous cell carinoma, develops in these cells.

In the deeper layers of the epidermis, on top of the dermis, is a range of cells called melanocytes. They produce melanin, which gives colour to our skin but are again liable to sun damage and the arrival of melanoma.

Whilst individual risk factors vary, none of us are immune from skin cancer. Unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells is quite common, causing genetic defects and rapid cell multiplication, which brings tumours.

Medical Outline

Skin cells normally contain DNA repair enzymes, to help reverse UV damage. A few people lack the genes for these enzymes and can suffer higher rates of skin cancer, although this does not mean any of us are immune.

The same would apply to having lighter skin, or atypical moles. They are indicators for a higher rate but skin cancer can come regardless of colour, age, gender, or predisposition, with sun exposure a key factor.

The ability of different types to spread and cause deeper damage varies. Basal cell carcinoma is the least likely, squamous cell carinoma more so and melanoma the most dangerous but all can bring unwanted symptoms.

Alongside the risk is good news. Diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers have advanced significantly in recent years, cure rates for most types are approaching 100% with the right support and early detection.

Maxillofacial Support

The skin on your face is quite thin compared with other areas, such as your back, yet is often the most exposed. This also sits on key areas for eating, breathing, for your senses and for living life.

Specialist maxillofacial care ensures these aspects are taken into account and as importantly, brings dedicated knowledge for diagnosis, or treatment.

Treating skin cancers on your face, lips, eyelids, or other delicate areas requires the right approach. To bring a cure, carefully consider cosmetic outcome and understand how the condition makes you feel.

Remembering that all cancer care is about people matters. By all means read more on the way we approach skin cancer treatment, or contact our friendly staff to discuss any concerns you have.